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134. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense McNamara to President Kennedy0

Yesterday the Joint Staff prepared the attached answers1 to the seven questions related to the defense of the Offshore Islands which General Taylor sent to me Saturday.2 Time did not permit the development of a complete answer to question 1. b.: “What would be the likely pattern of the attack and what the outcome?” We will continue to explore this subject.

General Lemnitzer has concurred in the Joint Staff’s statements. I, too, share their views, with one exception. The answer to question 5. b.3 implies that the defense of the Offshore Islands may require the use of tactical nuclear weapons, and that the U.S. should be prepared to use such weapons. I believe that with full U.S. support the Islands can be effectively defended without tactical nuclear weapons; in any event, I am not ready to recommend their use for that purpose.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, China. Top Secret.
  2. The attachment, entitled “Questions Related to the Defense of the Offshore Islands,” is not printed, but see the Supplement.
  3. June 23. Taylor’s memorandum stated that the President anticipated the probable need for an early meeting with the Congressional leadership on the subject of the threat to the offshore islands and wanted answers by June 25 to the seven questions that Taylor attached to provide him with background for such a discussion. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, China)
  4. Question 5 asks about circumstances in which atomic weapons might be used.